Recently, I was asked by a group of women in recovery: How do you start? Where do you start? What do you do first? What does it mean to take care of yourself?
This is not that uncommon a reaction, especially from women coming out of long-term marriages or having spent the last decade raising small children. We as women, and men too, get so enmeshed in the needs and wants of others that they get totally disconnected from who are they are. What they want and need is so under-exercised that if you ask one of these people what they want and need, they are stumped. I know I was. And if you don’t understand this, that’s okay – you have just never gotten so far away from yourself that you are disconnected from yourself.
Years ago, I stood at the mirror shortly after doing some Louise Hay exercise which would probably helped if I hadn’t been in such a state of disorientation. I was supposed to look in the mirror and tell myself I was proud of myself. My hair was a wreck, my eyebrows were all over my face, and the old t-shirt and sweatpants told a different story. I had pulled my once glorious hair back into a bun leaving my worn, drawn face pinched and severe. I was proud of this? I was proud of myself? That was the first good laugh I had had in a long time.
I looked closer in the mirror and thought, “Who the heck is that?” It was a version of me that was un-groomed, unkempt, over-fed and under-exercised. My complexion was dull and my eyes were smudged with dark shadows from lack of sleep. Yeah, baby, what am I proud of? Getting up? Surviving? Well, yes, actually I was. So that was something. I could look in the mirror and see a worn-out, almost 40-something train-wreck, or I could look at myself and see a warrior who survived and was ready to make changes.
I had gone through death, divorce, foreclosure and building a company on a shoestring all by myself in just under two years. Not bad. But I looked like it. Every day of fear, stress, anxiety and distress was stamped on my face, woven into my dingy hair and sat on my butt with an extra 20 pounds. I looked worn out and ready for the trash heap.
I know looks aren’t everything, but when you are a woman and you look in the mirror and don’t like what you see, it can be really hard to feel powerful, take risks, be the best you can be and start over. Maybe it’s the same with men. I can’t answer that. The sad thing was I didn’t know where to begin. I looked at my feet. Toes, I thought. That’s a good place to start.
That day I sat down in my bathroom and gave myself a really good pedicure. I couldn’t afford to go to a salon at that point and I fought with myself the whole time. Why are you doing this? Who’s going to notice your hands and feet? Who’s going to care?
I am. I said it out loud. I care. And that’s how it started. With a simple emery board and a bottle of polish, I stated to the world that I care about some silly toes. But it wasn’t so silly when it started me on my journey of polishing my inside and outside and it lead me to where I am today.
Where do you start? Just pick one thing. It can be big like therapy or small like toes. And then a week later, add another. Read a self-help book, stop the inane beat-up chatter in your internal monologue at least once a day, or sit in a park and cry like a weirdo until there are no more tears. I did that too. Probably scared the happy mothers as I cried with my two kids running around. Or maybe the people looked at me and got it. Who knows.
The point is, it doesn’t matter where you start or how – just that you do!